‘Ol Unreliable

(Halfway through Lucy)

(Debby would like it noted that she was rather sleepy when this post was composed, and thus may not have fully articulated everything she meant to. Poor Debby.)

Tim: Let me start out discussion of this book by saying I’m now halfway through the book and have very little idea whether (overall) I like it or not. Which is a weird feeling. That does not, however, mean that there aren’t things to talk about, and the foremost of these has to be the character of Lucy herself. I am deeply interested by Lucy, and while I believe she is at times quite insightful (I’m sure we’ll have to devote another post entirely to the cultural dynamics she brings up), I don’t believe for an instant she’s a reliable narrator. The fun in her is that she’s so subjective while being dispassionate and objective in her own mind. It could also be a post unto itself, but the example that springs to mind is her attitude towards sex and love. She seems too calculating. Particularly given some minor traumas in her life it seems we’re still likely to uncover, I think it’s, in part, a careful facade to keep from getting hurt.

Debby: It’s interesting that you use “sex and love” as an example of Lucy’s facade. I found her knowledge and interaction with her physical side the most honest and least fabricated part of her narrative. For instance, when she explains that she was “sucking [Tanner’s] tongue because I had liked the way his fingers looked on the keys of the piano” (p. 43), we are confronted with her deep innocence. I loved when she continued: “Someone should have told me that there were other things to seek out in a tongue than the flavor of it.” Instead of viewing this as a calculated facade, I see glimpses of an idyllic young girl who has been separated from her family– and all the people who might have told her what it is to kiss a boy.

Tim: I agree, but that’s kind of my point. A few pages later, she continues the story with Tanner: “I noticed his hands on my breasts, first rubbing delicately and then very hard, producing an exciting feeling. I do not remember how I knew to do this, but I pressed his head down to my chest, and as he licked and sucked by breasts, I thought, This must never stop.” There’s just a hint of true emotion there, just a hint of Lucy cutting loose. It happens at other times, too, with some of her interactions with Mariah, or with the children. It makes me wonder not about the facts of her story, but of the feelings.

Debby: Hmmm.. Like how she “loves” Miriam? I think that’s a beautiful picture– Lucy bonding with this precious little one, always carrying her through the woods and such. I think the distinct contrast between her harsh moments and her gentle ones are dramatic in the story.

Tim: And that’s really all I’m saying. Lucy is narrating the book, not a third party, and we do get at least glimpses of other sides to her, even if most of what we see is a dispassionate look at the world. She’s self-assured and saying what she believes to be true, but there’s just enough discrepancy at some small points that we can see she’s not God. Does that make sense? Like with other first person narrators, you often get parts of the story where they tell you how wrong they were. Lucy doesn’t seem to believe she could be in any meaningful way. It’s like seeing shading at the edge of a circle – it lets you know it’s really a 3D object.

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